Dabo’s difference is love

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“Only God could do this—take a guy like me from Pelham, go to Alabama, win a National Championship, come to Clemson, and have a chance to win a National Championship against the best team in the country,” said Dabo Swinney immediately following Clemson’s win at the College Playoffs National Championship Game. Recounting his life’s journey from growing up here in Pelham, Alabama, to his student-athlete and coaching experiences at the University of Alabama, to Clemson’s last-second victory, Swinney’s remarks reveal his character—thankful, humble, gracious and hardworking.

My long-lasting connection to the Swinney family and Kathleen Bassett Swinney’s family allows me to know that when Dabo says, “Football is a game. Life is short. You’ve gotta have some fun,” he is sharing his truth—and his family experience. Both sides of this family have known loss.

This collective family has also experienced quite a few joys outside of football including long-awaited arrivals, second chances and great goals realized. What is it about this family that allows them to rise above? Dabo Swinney says it best when he reveals his half-time comments to his team.

“The difference in the game is gonna be love. My word all year has been love. I told my guys, ‘Tonight, we’re gonna win it because we love each other,’” said Swinney.

Sitting in the stands with Swinney’s family, good friends and my sister-in-law Joni Hayes, my mom’s retelling of the game’s ending topped any sportscaster’s report.

“We saw the end of the game on the big screens under the stands. We started screaming when Clemson made that final touchdown and Kathleen said, ‘Hurry, let’s get out there!’ We all ran on the field! They made us go to the sidelines because there was one second left on the clock. We were on the sidelines for the victory!”

“It was our night; it was our time. This has been a process in the making for us,” said Swinney.

May Pelham always be a place where kids grow up feeling loved because—no matter what the score is—love always wins.